Following the Camberwell original and its Tooting sibling, wine bar/restaurant Good Neighbour have opened a third site on what has become a foodie hotspot, Peckham Rye. Taking the site of what was formerly the lovely Pedler who are relocating eastwards, it has big boots to fill. But from my visit on its opening evening, Good Neighbour is a very welcome (and good!) neighbour to the Rye. Australian chef Paul Williamson (ex-Soho House) is behind the spot, keen to spread both his love of artisan wines and adventurous small plates just a little further southwest. Like its Camberwell sister, the restaurant has an eclectic list of wines and I hear wine tastings are to be held.
In my eagerness to eat out (though indoors!) with the gradual easing of lockdown, I was lucky enough to visit on their opening night. I love the feeling of newness which itself passes over me eating out again after so long. Though the team were really under the cosh this evening – with one waiter down and one chef down – and so all table seating ran around 45 minutes behind schedule, with orders taking around 40 minutes to arrive, I didn’t mind. The enjoyment of eating out again counteracted those delays and just provided more time to soak up the general vibe of excitement buzzing around and sip on the wines/cocktails!
Inside, the space is split into two with a wine bar, counter seating and small tables out front and larger seating / booths in the second half, with the kitchen at the far end. They’ll also be launching a terrace for drinks in an optimistic nod to summer actually arriving. Although we’ve had the coldest May on record, the past year and certainly month has shown that Londoners are willing to and enjoy drinking (and eating) outside – perhaps in a Parisian / Continental kind of way, one thing Brexit hasn’t impacted thankfully.
Like its offshoots, the menu is split into snacks and nibbles and small plates, with a strong “Veg” section. To open, we went for the “Breads n spreads” which comes with a trio of dips: turmeric hummus, basil pesto and ajoblanco (£8). This order was a no brainer for a top wine bar, another nod to the spirit of a Spanish tapas joint or Parisian wine bar, and was enjoyed alongside the Italian rose prosecco offered to all diners to mark their opening (and also the late-running service!). Neither the bread nor the dips disappointed. The sourdough was light, fresh and dotted with bubbles of air, characteristics of a good, just-out-the-oven dough and was the perfect vehicle for the ajoblanco: a creamy almond-garlic Spanish-style dip dotted with olives. All my favourite ingredients in a dip! We found ourselves returning to enjoy what was left of the dips with each of our small plates, uniting the meal in an unexpected way. This small plate also represented what for me at least good cooking is all about: flavour, which is so important for veggie / vegan cooking.
Also from the nibbles, we ordered the beetroot & hazelnut arancini, black garlic aioli, green olive salsa verde (£7.25). This was everything you’d want from an arancini: oozy, creamy and full of flavour. The beetroot provided a gentle sweetness and the Ottlenghian black garlic aioli provided another reference dip throughout the evening.
Onto the small plates, top of my list to order was the harissa roast cauliflower, turmeric hummus, flaked almonds, date molasses (£6.75). Though the dish may have been lacking the date molasses on service, and the portion is rather small (four cauliflower florets), the different textures of each part combined effortlessly well and brought home the flavours of the Middle East very well.
We also shared the tenderstem broccoli with ajoblanco and almonds (£4.50). Again, the almonds had been forgotten on this dish – which I cheekily then requested! – but are an essential to enjoy alongside any broccoli dish in season at the moment, especially above the almondy ajoblanco sauce on which the broccoli was sitting. The end result was a success: garlicky, nutty and light, the broccoli also went very well alongside the pesto dip of the breads (and also on the bread!).
A last minute order of intrigue – given we had no idea what to expect from the dish – was the smoked miso aubergine doughnuts with house pickles & shiitake lime jus (£7). A vegan delight, it was both sweet yet savoury, occupying that third flavour ground loaded with umami. An unexpected triumph. Quite literally doughnuts filled with pureed aubergine, the pickles above provided a sour counterpoint and the shitake mushroom jus another dip to maximise flavour. Ever so moreish, the plate was a good finisher for the meal: sweet and light.
My companion couldn’t resist an order of the seasonal mango and cherry cheesecake (£6) to finish the small plates proper. Not too sweet, light and summery, it was a triumph and celebration of the mango season in its early peak at the moment.
As the spot settles into its new location, it’s sure to build a reputation as the place to be on a Friday night. The teething issues will also undoubtedly resolve. If you’re looking for good wine, nibbles and small plates, you won’t go far wrong with Good Neighbour.
Good Neighbour, 58 Peckham Rye, London SE15 4JR